Flu season is right around the corner, with dropping temperatures in the region leading to an increased risk of illness in the area. The Northwestern Health Unit is hoping to protect residents from falling ill, and will be offering free flu shots in mid-to-late October.

"A flu shot is recommended for anybody over the age of 6 months,” said Shannon Brown, Program Specialist with the Northwestern Health Unit.

“There are some people who are at higher risk of complications from an influenza infection, and those who are most-likely to spread it to others. We recommend that they receive the flu vaccine. Those groups include pregnant women, adults and children with chronic health conditions, as well as people looking after those with high-risk conditions.”

Brown then explains how you can receive your flu shot, free of charge.

“People can get flu shots at many different places in the community. You can go to pharmacies around the region, your local healthcare provider, as well as any of the Northwestern Health Unit offices in the region.”

Across the country, there are more than 12,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths are related to the flu each and every year. Brown says that while the flu shot makes a significant impact on keeping you healthy, there are other ways to stay safe during flu season.

“Besides getting a flu shot, you can protect yourself from illness by ensuring that you’re washing your hands frequently, keeping yourself healthy, eating a good, balanced diet, drink plenty of fluids, and if you are sick, stay home from work or from school so you are not spreading the illness to others.”

You may have caught the flu if you have:

  • fever

  • chills

  • cough

  • runny eyes

  • stuffy nose

  • sore throat

  • headache

  • muscle aches

  • extreme weakness and tiredness

  • loss of appetite

Be sure to:

  • stay home and get plenty of rest

  • drink lots of fluids

  • avoid caffeine

  • speak to your doctor or nurse practitioner about over-the-counter medications that can help you feel better (basic pain or fever relievers), but do not give acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or Aspirin®) to children or teenagers under the age of 18

  • treat muscle pain using a hot water bottle or heating pad — apply heat for short periods of time

  • take a warm bath

  • gargle with a glass of warm salt water or suck on hard candy or lozenges

  • use spray or saline drops for a stuffy nose

  • avoid alcohol and tobacco

Call your doctor or nurse practitioner if:

  • you don’t start to feel better after a few days

  • your symptoms get worse

  • you are in a high-risk group and develop flu symptoms

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